When and why do communities accept novel ideas as intuitively convincing? In the present study, we make use of the socio-cultural fragmentation of Israeli society to expose the discursive processes shaping the culture-dependent resonance of ideas. Specifically, we trace how Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s interpretation of two lethal attacks by Jewish extremists on a Palestinian family and the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade were received across Israel’s ultra-orthodox, settler, LGBT and Palestinian communities, as well as the mainstream right, center, and left. In a comparative analysis of media coverage catering to these groups, we distinguish six discursive responses to proposed ideas, which depend on their perception as plausible and appropriate given prior community beliefs. Our findings suggest a distinction between two possible meanings of resonance: Some ideas ‘click’ and are seamlessly appropriated in passing by a community, while others ‘strike a chord’ and raise a salient and emotional public debate.
The article draws on the first findings of the INFOCORE project to better understand the ways in which different types of media matter to the emergence, escalation or, conversely, the pacification and prevention of violence. The authors make the case for combining an interactionist approach of media influence, which is centred on the effects of evidential claims, frames and agendas made by various actors over time, with greater sensitivity for the factors that make conflict cases so different. They argue that the specific role played by the media depends, chiefly: (a) on the ways in which it transforms conflict actors’ claims, interpretations and prescriptions into media content; and (b) their ability to amplify these contents and endow them with reach, visibility and consonance. They found significant variation in media roles across six conflict cases and suggest that they are best explained four interlocking conditioning factors: (i) the degree to which the media landscape is diverse and free, or conversely, controlled and instrumentalized by conflict parties; (ii) societal attitudes to and uses of different media by audiences; (iii) different degrees of conflict intensity and dynamics between the conflict parties; (iv) the degree and nature of the involvement of regional and international actors. The article maintains that de-escalatory media influence will be most effective over the longer term, in settings of low intensity conflict and when tailored carefully to local conditions.
In its search for media influences in violent conflict, most existing scholarship has investigated the coverage of specific, salient conflict events. Media have been shown to focus on violence, sidelining concerns of reconciliation and disengaging rapidly as time proceeds. Studies have documented ethnocentric bias and self-reinforcing media hypes, which have been linked to escalation and radicalization. However, based on the existing studies, it remains hard to gauge if the unearthed patterns of media coverage are generally pervasive or limited to a few salient moments, specific conflicts or contexts. Likewise, we cannot say if different kinds of media apply similar styles of conflict coverage, or if their coverage is subject to specific contextual or outlet-specific factors. In this article, the authors compare the contents of both domestic and foreign opinion-leading media coverage across six selected conflicts over a time range of 4 to 10 years. They conduct a diachronic, comparative analysis of 3,700 semantic concepts raised in almost 900,000 news texts from 66 different news media. Based on this analysis, they trace when and to what extent each outlet focuses its attention on the conflict, highlights specific aspects (notably, violence and suffering, negotiations and peaceful solutions), and presents relevant in- and out-groups, applying different kinds of evaluation. The analysis generally corroborates the media’s tendency to cover conflict in an event-oriented, violence-focused and ethnocentric manner, both during routine periods and – exacerbated merely by degrees – during major escalation. At the same time, the analysis highlights important differences in the strength and appearance of these patterns, and points to recurrent contingencies that can be tied to the specific contextual factors and general journalistic logics shaping the coverage.
Journalistic news coverage plays an essential role for providing an audience with a diverse, multifaceted perspective upon public affairs. However, in the scholarly debate, most measures of viewpoint diversity do not distinguish between statements raising commensurable interpretations, and contributions that construct different meaning in a consequential sense. We provide an operationalization of viewpoint diversity that builds upon a tradition of identifying distinct interpretations through framing analysis. Going beyond frame diversity, we then distinguish between equivalent, complementary and competing, diverse interpretations: we consider as commensurable those frames that derive from the same ‘interpretative repertoire’, a notion borrowed from discourse studies. We propose a strategy for operationalization and the measurement of viewpoint diversity. Our focus on meaningfully different interpretations contributes to advancing research into journalism, political opinion formation, audience elaboration, and other important fields of study.
News coverage of the same events is simultaneously driven by homogenizing and heterogenizing influences. In this paper, we assess whether and when conflict news in different media become more similar or dissimilar by analyzing the coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 13 leading Israeli, Palestinian, and international media over almost 10 years. We distinguish between drivers of enduring similarity, gradual convergence and temporary (dis-)alignments in the news, and relate them to the detected concept association patterns in over 200,000 news texts. We find a slow, context-dependent convergence trend in the news, and temporary alignments and dis-alignments in interpretation in response to major conflict events. Discussing the underlying, interacting influences, the study highlights implications for investigating current transformations in global journalism.
Opinion polls are a well-established part of political news coverage, especially during election campaigns. At the same time, there has been controversial debate over the possible influences of such polls on voters’ electoral choices. The most prominent influence discussed is the bandwagon effect: It states that voters tend to support the expected winner of an upcoming election, and use polls to determine who the likely winner will be. This study investigated the mechanisms underlying the effect. In addition, we inquired into the role of past electoral performances of a candidate and analyzed how these (as well as polls) are used as heuristic cues for the assessment of a candidate’s personal characteristics. Using an experimental design, we found that both polls and past election results influence participants’ expectations regarding which candidate will succeed. Moreover, higher competence was attributed to a candidate, if recipients believe that the majority of voters favor that candidate. Through this attribution of competence, both information about prior elections and current polls shaped voters’ electoral preferences.
Collective memory is a current interpretation of the past that members of a group recognize as commonly shared. The study of collective memory has developed in fields as diverse as sociology, anthropology, social psychology, history, cultural studies, and communication. Collective memory concerns a group's recollections of the past, construed through the perspective of the present, and interpreted to serve present purposes. It emerges from active constructions of the past, typically achieved through the interplay of a wide range of actors. To become manifested as a shared narrative, resulting constructions must be widely disseminated and appropriated by individuals in a group to ensure mutual awareness. As a consequence, collective memory exists in the shared and private imagination of people, and is represented in the texts, practices, and artifacts of a group. The construction, dissemination, appropriation, and discursive mobilization of collective memory play significant roles in political processes.
In the scholarly debate, ideals of original reporting are commonly contrasted against the churnalistic reproduction of source content. However, most news making lies between these poles: Journalists rely on but transform the available source material, renegotiating its original meaning. In this article, we define journalistic transformation as those interventions journalists make in their use of third-party textual material in the pursuit of crafting a news story. Journalists (1) select contents from available source texts, (2) position these contents, (3) augment them with further information, and (4) arrange all to craft characteristic news narratives. To investigate journalistic transformation practices, we compare source materials used in the news (e.g. press releases, speeches) to the resulting Israeli, Palestinian, and international coverage of the abduction and murder of four youths in summer 2014. We identify five kinds of journalistic transformation – evaluative, political, cultural, emotive, and professional – each of which actualizes a different journalistic function and contributes to rendering the news relevant to the respective audiences in distinct ways.
In the production of news, the frames presented by selected sources play a critical role. However, to create coherent, authoritative, and relevant news stories from the selected input, journalists need to actively transform the available material and fit it within a journalistic news frame. In our study, we investigate how Israeli, Palestinian, and foreign (US, UK, German) newspapers made use of highly salient source statements in their coverage of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli and one Palestinian teenager in summer 2014. Performing a qualitative analysis, we identify three characteristic ways in which journalists reposition selected sources’ frames within their coverage: journalists can rely on selected source frames to present specific, subjective viewpoints; they can present multiple source frames as testimonies about newsworthy events; and they can interpret them as communicative actions in sources’ struggle for recognition in the public arena. Each strategy contributes to the construction of a different, broad class of news frames, reflecting different journalistic styles and norms. We discuss implications for the study of news frames and the different roles of political sources within the news.
Given the rising use of visual and multimodal information, text-oriented framing research is at risk of losing traction with current media reality. We propose applying frame processing theory as a general framework for understanding how coherent meaning is constructed from complex stimuli, regardless of their modality: Both visual and textual information processing follow a recursive sequence of (a) selective perception/structuring, (b) decoding, (c) the construction of relations, and (d) their integration into coherent meaning. The specifics of visual and textual modalities provide varying degrees of structuring and salience within a fundamentally unified information processing process. Integrating advances from framing and visual communication research, we discuss implications for the empirical analysis of multimodal news contents, and sketch an agenda for research.
Does news users’ commentary contribute to widening the diversity of viewpoints represented in the news? This article comparatively analyses the interpretations of the current financial crisis in the online coverage of five German newspapers and the subsequent commentary of news users. Using an innovative strategy to identify the interpretative repertoires constructed by news and user frames, it assesses how user commentary deviates from those viewpoints represented in the news. Findings show that user accounts mostly remain within the wider interpretative repertoires offered by the media. However, they utilize media frame fragments rather freely to construct their own views, shifting focus and elaborating upon new aspects. While no consistent alternative repertoires were constructed, users thus valuably complemented the diversity of concerns discussed on news websites.
Politische Akteure nehmen die Massenmedien als zunehmend mächtig wahr und orientieren sich daher vermehrt an der Medienlogik. Dies führt u. a. zu einer Professionalisierung des politischen Kommunikationshandelns. Wie professionell die Kommunikation politischer Akteure ist, wurde bislang nur auf Bundes- und Landesebene untersucht, nicht jedoch im kommunalen Kontext. Die vorliegende Studie widmet sich dieser Forschungslücke und untersucht die Professionalität der kommunalpolitischen Kommunikation. Wir befragten 372 Angehörige bayerischer Stadt- und Kreistage zu ihren politischen Kommunikationsaktivitäten, mit besonderem Fokus auf deren Routinekommunikation. Die Ergebnisse belegen eine auch auf kommunaler Ebene wahrgenommene zunehmende Relevanz politischer Kommunikation, welche mit einer hohen Bedeutungszuschreibung an medienspezifische Kommunikationskompetenzen einhergeht. Aus dieser Wahrnehmung folgen allerdings kaum bedeutende Professionalisierungsanstrengungen – und das, obwohl sich die Befragten der Diskrepanz zwischen Anspruch und Wirklichkeit durchaus bewusst sind. Der Artikel schließt mit einer Diskussion möglicher Ursachen dieser Diskrepanz und formuliert Implikationen für die Medialisierungs- und Professionalisierungsforschung.
Not quite professional. Assessing the professionalism of Bavarian local politicians‘ communication activities
The influence of media upon social communication is pervasive: The need to adapt to specific media logics drives the increasing professionalization of political communication practices. Specifically, much attention has been given to media-related changes in the representation and professionalized conduct of political campaigns. However, surprisingly little is known about the influence of mediatization beyond the electoral race, and virtually no research exists that investigates mediatization on a local level. This study investigates whether mediatization is felt also among local politicians, and triggers a similar dynamic of increasing professionalization. Focusing on routine communication practices in local politics, it conducts a survey among 372 members of Bavarian regional parliaments. It assesses the perceived role of media, as well as respondents’ professionalization strategies developed to communicate effectively in public. The study finds that the perception of media influence and the ascribed importance of media-related competences is high also in a local context. However, this perception is not accompanied by major professionalization efforts. Moreover, politicians are generally aware of this discrepancy. The paper concludes by discussing possible reasons for the detected gap between aspiration and reality, and highlights implications for professionalization and mediatization theory.
In public discourse, meaning is constantly renegotiated. Frames and other semantic structures are co-constructed in the public debate based on the contributions of many discourse participants. Over time, they incorporate new information and interpretations. As a result, time-dependent changes occur both on the level of manifest contributions and on the level of latent structures organizing discourse into meaningful frames. This article introduces a technique capable of analyzing the changing patterns of meaning in a genuinely dynamic fashion. It applies Evolutionary Factor Analysis (EFA), a recently developed technique for treating high-dimensional data with time-changing latent structure. Using EFA, we uncover evolving patterns on different levels of abstraction within our data, which represent discourse as a detailed semantic network. We investigate specific dynamics expected within dynamic discourse (e.g., emergence, evolution, consolidation, crisis) and analyze the time-changing structure and content of meaning. The methodological innovation presented in this paper allows a detailed analysis of micro-level changes organized by latent higher-level structures: It can be transferred to a variety of social phenomena organized by structures that evolve over time (e.g., public opinion, social interaction). Rendering their dynamic behavior accessible to statistical analysis, it offers new theoretical insights into their mechanics and underlying structure.
The social relevance of framing effects hinges upon their ability to persist. This article develops a theoretical account of the conditions under which framing effects should vanish quickly, fade slowly, or cause permanent changes. It argues that the cognitive processes involved in mediating frame effect need to leave durable traces in a person's knowledge to raise a persistent effect. This paper distinguishes temporary changes in the accessibility of knowledge from durable changes in the applicability structure and belief content. It discusses under which conditions these memory traces will likely affect judgment formation also after the stimulus is gone. We argue that the durability of framing effects can be modeled based on the chronic accessibility of frame-relevant knowledge and the familiarity of the frame.
Frames affect the meaning of information by embedding it within selective, coherent, and purposefully chosen context. Over the last decades, researchers have ventured to explore how the provision of specific frames affects and alters people's interpretations and evaluations. They have derived a wide variety of approaches to the study of frames, and have advanced complementary as well as competing theories of how the well-known framing effect can be explained. A related aspect that has largely eluded scientific attention so far, however, is how frame-induced variations of derived meaning relate to the discursive construction, as well as the cognitive acquisition and elaboration of meaning required to make sense of a complex reality. This thesis addresses this question. It develops and empirically tests a perspective on framing that views frames as embedded within larger semantic networks. In the theoretical second chapter, frames are conceptualized as locally coherent patterns within the propositional structure of discourse on the one hand, and cognition on the other. Linking this view to the dominant perspectives on framing in scientific discourse, this approach achieves four main objectives: First, it provides a conceptualization of frames that relates to both linguistic and psychological (notably: schema-based) theories of meaning. It hence allows reformulating past theorizing and findings about frames within a common conceptual framework – the semantic network. Second, as a consequence, it provides a platform upon which the competing process models advanced within the study of framing effects can be integrated into a single, multi-stage cognitive process. Third, based on this integrated model, predictions can be made about the cognitive reconstruction of frames from communication, enabling people to embed information meaningfully into coherent context. Frames are thus understood as structures facilitating and directing the acquisition of complex knowledge. Finally, the developed conceptualization allows a much more detailed and precise operationalization of frames than common holistic approaches, and enables an inductive identification of frames. The various propositions and predictions derived from the theoretical model are empirically tested in the subsequent chapters. Chapter III introduces the case chosen for data collection: This study captures the propositions and frames advanced in relation to the EU Constitution during the referendum campaign in the Netherlands, and juxtaposes these with the beliefs and cognitive frames formed by Dutch voters. The EU Constitution has been selected as a salient but novel concern which related to scarce but well-organized prior knowledge among the Dutch electorate. It therefore provides a suitable case for studying the acquisition and integration of knowledge from public communication. In chapter IV, the core theoretical propositions regarding the cognitive mechanisms of frame processing are tested experimentally. For this purpose, subjects were exposed to framed messages varying with regard to their semantic context, focal issue, and evaluative drift. Subsequently, participants‘ spontaneous associations with the focal concept were recorded. In line with the theoretical model, results indicate that framing is best understood as a predominantly semantic effect, wherein contextual cues raise different schematic knowledge for information processing. The evaluative shifts often noted in the study of framing effects derive from the knowledge tapped for processing and are not directly affected by the provided frame itself. Chapter V focuses on the structure of frames rendered available to Dutch voters, analyzing the contents of mass media discourse and the political parties' referendum campaigns. Based on the recorded propositional structures, several expectations about the composition and alignment of frames within discourse are tested. Results show that frames relate to one another within the narrative and argumentative structure of persuasive accounts, while the frames used in news reporting do not necessarily form coherent patterns. However, consonance between different sources' news frames was markedly higher than within political discourse. Turning toward cognitive representations, chapter VI assesses the belief structures formed by Dutch voters with regard to the EU Constitution. While the importance of frame structures in crafting coherence within accounts is further corroborated, the identified cognitive frames deviate in systematic ways from those provided in public discourse. Notably, people show considerable discretion of which available frames they accept and include into their accounts. Voters‘ narratives rarely followed those templates advocated in public, but combined considerations taken from various sources, using frames to weave connections between the selected shards of knowledge. In order to further substantiate the differences and similarities detected between communicated and acquired frames, chapter VII performs a comparative analysis of the semantic networks constructed from either source. It finds that television and political sources were most influential for the formation of people's understandings, followed by broadsheet newspapers. Moreover, results show that people combined and reconciled frames with opposing evaluative drift, advanced by rival campaigning actors. People were notably more reliant on communicated frames regarding novel, unobtrusive, and current issues, while prior knowledge mostly overrode provided frames on familiar, long standing issues. In summary, this thesis argues that frames are integral to the formation of coherent accounts in discourse and cognition. It advocates a wide view that focuses not so much on isolated, single frames and their effects, but on the interplay of various interrelated frames in both communication and cognition. This study provides a theoretical framework for investigating how frames create coherent meaning from disparate propositions. Simultaneously, it considers how multiple frames relate to one another within narrative and persuasive communication. Thus addressing structures both beyond and within the frame, it provides a methodological approach that is well-tailored to translate the theoretical concerns into discernible measures. The semantic network based view on frames advanced in this study hence furthers our understanding of frames in at least three respects: First, it helps disentangling several concepts that have been confounded in the literature, adding precision to the theoretical debate. Second, it supports a methodological framework capable of translating the gain in theoretical precision into well-differentiated measures. Finally, it contextualizes frames, relating these to other important concepts in the study of communication and information processing. The present dissertation thus underscores the relevance of frames, which rests to a large degree in their contribution to the creation of meaning from information.
This article investigates how voters made sense of the Dutch EU constitutional referendum. Based on a series of focus group interviews, it identifies what information people based their understandings on, and traces the relations they draw between concepts in their own accounts of their vote choices. Applying a cognitive connectionist perspective on the construction of meaning, it models people's considerations as paths across semantic networks. It finds that people shared considerable parts of the knowledge underlying their constructions, but used this information quite differently. They strategically selected frames from their information environment, and reframed contrary arguments to fit their constructions. Yes- and No-voters drew in systematically different additional information, while simultaneously engaging idiosyncratic concerns to personalize their accounts. People's understandings are thus informed and constrained, but by no means determined, by public discourse. Highlighting people's activity and creativity, this paper calls for a stronger audience perspective in political communication research.